AUGUSTA — A human rights panel has sided with a teacher from Jay who said he was a victim of age discrimination by a central Maine school district when his Advanced Placement history classes were taken from him last year.

Regional School Unit 73, the Spruce Mountain School District, later retaliated against the teacher when he complained about the course changes, according to a commission investigation.

The charges by Michael J. Henry of Jay were considered Monday by the Maine Human Rights Commission under the consent agenda. Henry was not present at the meeting nor were attorneys for him or the school district, since there were no objections to the reasonable grounds finding recommended by commission investigator Jenn Corey.

In her report, dated Nov. 9, 2017, Henry’s age is listed as 68. The case now moves into a conciliation phase.

Commission findings are not law, but may become grounds for lawsuits.

The Livermore Falls-based school district, which also includes Jay and Livermore, says the district “needed to train a new teacher to teach AP classes to prepare for the future” and that Henry “acted unprofessionally in response to the reassignment,” according to Corey’s report.

Henry was assigned to teach lower level classes.

He had been employed by the district since 1972, taught AP classes there for 23 years, and had provided the district with “notice to retire” — a practice to preserve certain benefits under the union contract — for several years running, although he did not follow up with a second letter.

Henry retired in June 2016.

“Complainant provided he felt pressured to do so earlier than he had otherwise planned because of respondent’s response to his age discrimination claim, which he felt was embarrassing and created intolerable social pressures and conditions for possible dismissal in what was otherwise an unsullied career,” Corey’s report states.

Corey concluded, “The only action (the district) took in response to (Henry’s) complaint of age discrimination was to issue disciplinary letters.

“The (district) did not conduct any investigation into (his) age discrimination claim; instead, it disciplined him for making it.”

She recommended a finding of reasonable grounds to believe that the district subjected Henry “to unlawful age discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment” and that it “retaliated against him for asserting” his rights under the Maine Human Rights Act.

Regional School Unit 73 Superintendent’s Office. (File photo)

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